The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

January 27, 2014 Flowers, Historical Fiction 19

Hidey Ho Bookworms!

I’ve been feeling more blah than usual this winter. Perhaps the double dose of polar vortex is taking its toll, but I’ve got cabin fever something fierce. I’ve been finding refuge in my comfort fiction- short-ish novels with pretty covers and garden motifs. A while back, one of my favorite people in the UNIVERSE, Jennifer AKA The Relentless Reader, offered up some spare copies of Sarah Jio’s novel The Last Camellia. I said, “me, me, pick me!!!” into the twitter, and she sent me a book out of the goodness of her heart. (Shout out to Jen, she’s got winter way worse than I do, she’s up in Northern Wisconsin.)

thelastcamelliaThe Last Camellia is written in a dual narrative, which is delicious, because I love ping ponging back and forth in time. I’m a regular Marty McFly. The first part of the story is set on the eve of World War II. Flora is a young woman living with her parents in Brooklyn. She has a passion for horticulture (girl after my own heart) but her ambitions are stymied by her family’s poverty. Her parents are extremely kind and generous in the running of their bakery, but when you’re not getting enough dough for your, uh, dough, shady characters show up and try to shake you down for money. When Flora is offered the opportunity to go to England and hunt down the last remaining Middlebury Pink Camellia, she jumps at her chance to make some money for the family. Unfortunately. she’s stealing the rare flower for a crook who plans to sell it to the Nazis, but her conscience takes a back seat when it comes to her family’s welfare.

The second narrative is that of Addison… Addison married Rex, the son of a well-to-do family with connections to England’s aritstocracy… Or part of the aristocracy? Titles confuse me. Anyway, they two end up spending their summer in the very same manor Flora occupied 60 years earlier, and Addison is particularly entranced by the camellia orchard. Sadly for Addison, she can’t just get her garden on, because she’s being stalked by her scandalous past. This book has intrigue and drama and mystery. A few of the mystery elements seemed a little rushed at the end, but all in all, I found this book to be a nice little read. I think it’s impossible for me not to like a book about flowers.

Alright Bookworms. Let’s talk about comfort reading. Is there a genre of books you feel drawn to? What’s your happy place?

*If you choose to make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I will not be spending the proceeds on camellias, because APPARENTLY, it’s too cold for them in central Illinois. Hmph.*

19 Responses to “The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End

    My happy place is books about boarding schools. Boarding schools where they teach ballet are best.

    (Since I’m an awful gardener and kill every plant that comes near me, I get sad reading books about flowers/plants/gardening. :p)

  2. Rhian

    I suppose my comfort genre would be contemporary romance. One for the simplicity – if I want comfort I don’t want to have to think too hard about it. And two for the happily-ever-after – real life does not always equal comfort.

  3. Kelly

    I read this one a couple months ago and really liked it. I agree that it’s “comfort reading”…not going down in the annals of history as show-stopping literature, but it was quick and intriguing and pretty. 🙂 Have you read any of Jio’s other stuff? I liked this one a lot better than Blackberry Winter (which I suppose is not good let’s-not-think-about-winter comfort reading…),

  4. Megan M.

    I love dreamy, mysterious, magical books. Sarah Addison Allen, Kate Morton, Alice Hoffman… pretty much everything they write makes me swoon.

  5. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    Hmm, sounds like a lovely read!

    I don’t think I have a genre that I read for comfort, but I have certain books that I go to when I need something comforting. Dipping into any Harry Potter book for a few chapters makes me feel better, and Norwegian Wood comforts me for some reason. And Circulation by Tim Horvath! It’s a 60-ish page novella, so it’s perfect for an hour pick-me-up.

  6. Sarah Says Read

    I think this is the only Sarah Jio I haven’t read yet – FYI, she does that dual-narrative thing in a LOT of her books. It’s like her favorite way to write. I really liked The Bungalow by her – it was a bit of a lost-love kind of story, but it was the best I think.

  7. Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I like the author’s writing style and am also a fan of connected dual narratives, but I found the parallels between the two stories a bit extreme. It was constantly pulling me out of the story because the coincidences reminded me that this was made up.

    • Words For Worms

      I’ll grant you that, the parallels were almost TOO much. I think the matching car crashes very nearly did me in… But then there was a happy ending and more flowers. All was forgiven.

  8. Mandy Boles

    I loved The Last Camellia. (I’m a total Sarah Jio fangirl though!lol) It does make a really good comfort read.

    When I need a comfort read I tend to turn to time travel romance like the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon or Overseas by Beatriz Williams.

    Love me some time travel!

  9. Melinda

    My comfort reading generally include cosy mysteries, settings in old and forgotten places like a run-down or old mansion, family secrets etc, but I must say my first love is still stories about war-time.

    I think this book is probably one I would enjoy – because there’s the WWII and flowers! 🙂

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